“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Gen 2:15).
The creation of man and then the placing of him on the earth was never meant to be an endless vacation without responsibilities. From the beginning, work was a part of God’s design.
Work was never meant to be a punishment. God spoke to Adam after he sinned He said,
“17 Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:17-19).
Man’s punishment was not work in general. God just made it harder than what was intended as a result of the curse.
Work has always been a part of God’s perfect design for this work. God always intended man to become industrious and have a strong work ethic.
Adam’s responsibility was simply to work the land, help it become fruitful and multiply, turn over the soils for the next harvest, and help it become fruitful and multiply again. Adam would come to know the reality of eating only as a result of your work (II Thess 2:10), because his food was dependent upon his work ethic.
God gave us the responsibility of work, and He set the example of working (Gen 1). Jesus told the Jews on one occasion, “… My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17). And because of God’s example of working, He calls us to emulate Him and also work. Solomon writes,
“18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. 19 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil – this is the gift of God” (Ecc 5:18-19).
The food and drink and other items that bring us pleasure come to those who faithfully “toil” or work. Thus, work can be enjoyed because of what it produces.
When we work, we serve others. When we work, we are helping meet needs. When we are at work, we are building the ability to give of our own resources. When we are at work, we are serving God and emulating Him.